What is Influencer Marketing?

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There's no denying the impact influencer marketing has on the online marketing industry. Not only did influencer marketing hit $13.8 billion in 2021, but 17% of brands devote as much as half their annual marketing budget to influencer campaigns.

Brands can use this to their advantage by engaging in influencer marketing. Here businesses collaborate with popular content creators in their niche to reach a shared target audience.

If you’re new to influencer marketing and interested in how it could aid your brand, you’ve come to the right place. This article introduces everything you need to know about influencer marketing and how to get started with it. We’ll also explore a few influencer marketing success stories too!

There’s tons to cover, so grab a cup of coffee, and let’s get started!

What is Influencer Marketing?

We’ve already hinted at what influencer marketing is in the intro. However, before going any further, let’s doubly ensure we’re all on the same page with what influencer marketing actually is. 

In short, influencer marketing is what it says on the tin. It’s an online marketing strategy that utilizes people with a strong influence over your target audience. These tend to be social media personalities boasting a sizable and engaged following with your ideal customers. Influencer marketing grew out of celebrity marketing – so imagine these social influencers as digital stars!

Influencers typically affect the purchasing decisions of their following by providing product recommendations, product reviews, or even featuring brands as part of their lifestyle. 

The most successful influencers have gained their audience’s trust. As such, they form part of their daily lives by actively engaging with them in a personal, loyalty-inspiring fashion.

That said, influencers in your niche could help your business by:

  • Publishing a blog post about your product or service
  • Sharing information about your brand on their social media accounts
  • Creating video reviews/ recommendations about your products
  • Posting pictures of your products on their socials/blog
  • Granting you access to their social accounts for a social media takeover event!

In light of that, a successful influencer marketing strategy typically comprises the following steps:

  • Identifying key actors in your niche
  • Reaching out to influencers
  • Devising a campaign with your influencer
  • Analyzing the campaign’s success

But why would an influencer want to work with your brand? In some cases, their lifestyle and your products may align very well. For example, the influencer may already be using your products or something similar. The influencer may express a natural interest in collaborating in instances like this. 

Besides this, you could offer prospective influencers several perks, for example:

  • Free samples
  • Product discounts
  • Commissions on the sales they make

…or you could pay them outright to advertise your product(s).

Influencer Marketing vs. Brand Ambassadors vs. Affiliate Marketing

Influencer marketing is sometimes confused with brand ambassador and affiliate marketing. All these marketing strategies are widespread on the web and involve individuals promoting products for you. So, in that sense, these advertising methods are somewhat similar. However, it’s worth knowing the difference between these tactics to avoid any confusion:

Influencer marketing: Brands build relationships with influencers who can review and recommend their products to a shared target audience. In this instance, the influencer usually remains an individual entity largely unaffiliated with the business.

A brand ambassador: A brand ambassador positively represents and promotes a brand to amplify brand awareness. It’s a way of building trust between a brand and its customers. Typically, brand ambassadors are customers that love your products and services and might make recommendations to their friends and families to earn referral-related perks, loyalty points, or simply to spread the love. However, they can also be famous or influential people paid to promote a brand. 

Affiliate MarketingHere, affiliate marketers link to your products in their videos, articles, social media posts, etc., to earn a commission on the purchases made via their unique affiliate link. While affiliate and influencer marketing can overlap, depending on the exclusivity of your affiliate program, you might attract people who don’t authentically compliment your brand’s values.

Why Should You Care About Influencer Marketing?

The age of traditional online advertising through ads and banners is dying. Customers are bombarded on average with over 5000 ads a day, so it’s no wonder nearly half of all internet users worldwide use adblocking tools.

So when you take away video ads and banners, what are brands left with? The big contenders remain:

  • Social media marketing
  • Google ads
  • Content marketing
  • Affiliate marketing

…and, of course, yes: Influencer marketing.

For us, influencer marketing ticks the following boxes:

  • Influencers come with an existing audience. If you simply marketed yourself organically on your own socials, you would quickly reach the limitations of your following.
  • Typically, influencers are individuals, first and foremost with their own personalities, which gives them a sense of authenticity. As a result, their word acts as a trusted source, which means a lot when you consider 92% of consumers trust online word-of-mouth recommendations.
  • Influencers are popular with young audiences. In fact, 60% of millennials are more likely to take advice from YouTube influencers than traditional media personalities.
  • 80% of consumers have bought something because of an influencer’s recommendation.

Why does influencer marketing work so well? First, as we’ve already hinted at, recommendations from influencers don’t feel like sales pitches; instead, engagement feels more personal and less commercial.

How to Find Influencers

Now that we’ve covered what influencer marketing is and why you should care about it, let’s turn our attention to the first step of any influencer marketing campaign: 

…Identifying the best influencers for your brand. 

To find relevant influencers, you need to ensure your target audience and the prospective influencer’s overlaps. Like most online brands, influencers market themselves with specific demographics in mind. So, consider what your niche is; this will better position you to find an influencer that complements the needs of your audience. For example, let’s say that you sell beauty products. Does your brand embrace body positivity? Veganism? Diversity? A more natural look? Whatever sets you apart, note it down and aim to find an influencer that does the same.

Identifying the Best Channels for Influencer Marketing

As well as finding the right influencer, don’t forget to consider the best channels for reaching your audience. That said, here are some of the most common influencer channels and how they might correlate with your target audience.

Blogs

Thanks to their insightful blog posts, many influencers have become authorities in their niche. They publish valuable written/video content that their audience perceives as credible and informative. 

Here are a few of many examples across different niches to give you a feel of what we’re talking about:

Influencers in the blogging sphere could write a detailed review of your product or act as a case study. But they may also allow you to write a guest post on their blog. Typically speaking, blogging influencers best suit products with technical details and audiences seeking more in-depth information.

what is influencer marketing

Social Media

Social media is where the vast majority of influencers are active. They engage their following through video, text, photo content, live streams, etc. Below we’ve listed some of the most popular social networks for influencer marketing:

Instagram: Instagram remains one of the biggest platforms for influencer marketing. In fact, 79% of marketers use Instagram for their influencer marketing campaigns. 

Influencers on this channel wow their audiences with stunning visuals, engaging videos, stories, lives, and lifestyle updates. Their content is often well-polished and branded. In light of that, Instagram is often the platform to be on if you’re looking for fashion, beauty, lifestyle, health, or fitness influencers. The majority of Instagram users are predominantly female Millennials aged 25-34 located in the US, the UK, India, and Brazil. 

Here are a few examples of Instagram influencers who have successfully cultivated engaged and loyal followings:

what is influencer marketing

TikTok: TikTok has over one billion active monthly users, and some creators enjoy followings of up to 100 million fans! Entertainment, dance, pranks, fitness, sports, and DIY-related content are all popular on the platform. It’s also worth bearing in mind that Gen Z loves TikTok – so if that’s who you’re targeting, finding an influencer on this platform could be a shrewd move. As many as 48% of active users are aged between 18 and 29. TikTok’s audience is also predominantly female, with women outnumbering men by 61%

Brands should be down-to-earth, conversational, energetic, and full of personality to vibe well with the TikTok crowd and its micro and macro-influencers. 

A few examples of popular TikTok influencers include:

what is influencer marketing

YouTube: In 2021, brands spent over $603 million on Youtube influencer marketing. The platform lends itself to longer content than TikTok and Instagram. It, therefore, suits products that lend themselves to more in-depth reviews. It’s also the perfect place for influencers to present tutorials and how-tos. As such, influencer marketing on YouTube tends to work well for niches like tech, gaming, and food and drink.

Popular YouTube influencers include:

what is influencer marketing

Twitch: A top-rated streaming platform with over 88.7 million hours streamed in January 2021 alone. It’s best suited to brands in the gaming industry. It’s also worth mentioning that Twitch boasts a predominantly male user base, with more than half of its users aged 18 to 34

Influencers on Twitch sometimes spend hours live with their audiences, cultivating high levels of engagement and trust from their followers. 

Popular Twitch influencers:

what is influencer marketing

Start Finding Potential Influencers to Collaborate With

Once you’ve identified the right platform(s) for your influencer marketing campaign, it’s time to start searching for prospective influencers to collaborate with. 

To narrow your search, head to your chosen influencer channels and use hashtags and keywords relevant to your niche to hone in on potential collaboration opportunities. You can also set up Google Search Alerts to receive notifications when potential influencers post content relevant to your brand.

Start to list potential candidates and then further vet them to identify the best possible fit. Below are a few things worth considering:

  • Their reach. How many followers do they have on the channels most relevant to your brand? Micro-influencers with less than 15,000 followers can still boast remarkable conversion rates. Interestingly, research suggests that 82% of customers were highly likely to buy from a micro-influencer. However, that said, you might want influencers with a more extensive reach depending on your campaign goals.
  • Engagement. How much does their audience actually engage with the influencer’s content? This is a good indication of their sway over their audience’s buying decisions. Look out for Likes, shares, comments, etc. 
  • Authenticity. Does the influencer appear like they’re sharing their honest opinions? Do their followers trust them? Or does it seem like they’re only posting what they’re paid to post? Authenticity is critical in 2022, so look for influencers that aren’t afraid to speak their mind. 
  • Personality. Remember, once you partner with an influencer, they’ll represent your brand. As such, you want to find someone that holds similar viewpoints to you and carries themselves in a manner that will positively reflect your business.

What’s an Influencer Marketing Platform?

The vetting process we’ve described above, although practical, can take a long time. Also, even once you’ve found an influencer that could potentially be a good fit, you still don’t know if they’ll be up for working with you.

This is where influencer marketing platforms come in handy.

These platforms help brands find influencers quickly; while removing most of the guesswork from the equation. The best way to describe an influencer marketing platform is a database of influencers which you can filter according to:

  • Reach
  • Industry
  • Engagement
  • Social media platform

…and more.

Generally, these platforms also empower you to:

  • View a price list of the services influencers offer, as well as a breakdown of what they’re willing/ not willing to do for your brand. 
  • Reach out to influencers
  • Run, track and measure your influencer marketing campaigns

In short, they provide a centralized, one-stop shop for finding successful collaborations and handling all things influencer marketing. 

There are many influencer marketing platforms out there, but here are just a few examples:

what is influencer marketing

How to Approach an Influencer

The best influencer marketing campaigns are based on mutual trust and a good relationship between brands and creators. As such, you should take your time engaging with influencers and avoid the dreaded “cold call.”

First off, get Influencers to notice you by following them on their social media networks and engaging with their content. For example, you could comment about what you like about their work. Or respond with your own content and tag them in it. By showing an interest in them, they’re much more likely to respond positively when you eventually slide into their DMs to ask for a collaboration.

When you’re ready to get in touch, create a compelling proposal, including: 

  • Who you are and how you found out about them
  • Why you’re getting in touch
  • What you can offer in exchange for a collaboration (discounts, free samples, a shout-out, in turn, financial incentives, affiliate commissions, etc.)
  • Pointers for how they can take the conversation forward. What do you need to hear from them to move forward with the collaboration?

At this stage, you don’t have to go into the specifics. However, you should make the offer sound lucrative and professional. It’s also bearing in mind that:

  • 40% of influencers are most interested in brands whose opportunities are relevant to their own audience. 
  • For 14%, it’s important to them that they like the brand
  • 10% care if an opportunity helps with their own promotion.

There’s a good chance that your influencer’s DMs/inbox is packed to the brim, so your message or email may initially go unnoticed. So, don’t be afraid to follow up after a few days before giving up hope!

Managing Your Relationship with Influencers

Influencer marketing is most effective when you can establish long-lasting relationships with the influencers you work with. Namely because over time, their support appears increasingly authentic to their audience. 

So, how do you cultivate such a relationship with your influencers? Below is some sage advice on how to achieve exactly that:

Compensation

Providing fair compensation is essential for maintaining good relationships with your influencers. As such, freebies alone are seldom enough – as many as 68% of influencers prefer working with brands offering competitive compensation upfront. 

When it comes to calculating ‘fair compensation' per post, a good general rule to follow is: $100 x 10,000 followers + extras = total rate. This should give you a rough feel for the kind of budget you'll need to successfully engage and maintain a good relationship with your influencers. 

Creative Freedom

As many as 39.4% of influencers say they’re bound by overly restrictive content guidelines. So, keep your influencers happy by providing them with creative freedom. Remember, influencers are creators in their own right and know their target audience best. As a result, they often have preferred content formats and ways of presenting themselves. So, give influencers the space and freedom they need to create content that resonates with their audience while also promoting your brand. 

Give Them Time

32% of influencers don’t like working with brands that don’t give them enough time to complete tasks. As we’ve already hinted at, influencer marketing is a long-term strategy, so don’t expect overnight results…or content for that matter. Influencers need an opportunity to mention your brand naturally that feels relevant and authentic.

On top of this, high-quality content creation takes time. Not to mention, many influencers work on their own. When you take these factors into account, it's easy to see how stretched influencers are for time. Often, they don’t have a workforce behind them that can push out content at lightning speed. In fact, 35% of influencers have a full-time job alongside their role as an influencer, and 25.3% are students.

Influencer Marketing Best Practices

Before wrapping up, we want to leave you with a few top tips and tricks to ensure your first influencer marketing campaign achieves the best possible ROI.

  • Sell a great product. Remember that influencer marketing is all about influencers' trust with their audiences. They won’t compromise this trust and authority for a shoddy product. So if you’re going to request that an influencer review your merchandise, ensure they’ll love it and be able to share an honest, favorable opinion of it.
  • Find micro-influencers in your niche. To enjoy influencer marketing success, you don’t always have to approach the most prominent industry names. For instance, if you sell to a very specific niche, finding an influencer that serves a smaller, more engaged audience could be the best solution for you. In fact, one study shows that micro-influencers with less than 15,000 followers achieve the highest average engagement rate (17.96%) compared to larger influencers – so don’t discount them!
  • Focus on engagement over followers. Engagement stats are crucial, as the higher their engagement levels, the more sway the influencer typically has over their audience’s buying decisions. As a benchmark, the average engagement for micro-influencers across Instagram, TikTok, and Youtube are as follows:
    • Instagram – 3.86%
    • TikTok – 17.96% 
    • YouTube – 1.63%
  • Ensure influencers mark their posts as sponsored posts. Influencer marketing is subject to specific regulations. Influencers must differentiate between everyday organic content and sponsored posts to ensure they follow the FTC Social media guidelines.
  • Use data to measure your ROI. You’ll need to measure the success of your influencer campaigns over time to make adjustments and improvements. Track measurable KPIs to see how your marketing efforts are paying off. The KPIs important to you will depend on your specific goals. However, these may include website traffic, clicks on influencer links, engagement on social media, sales, newsletter sign-ups, etc.

Influencer Marketing Success Stories

We’ve now covered all the basics for hitting the ground running with influencer marketing. So, let’s bring this blog post to a close with a few case studies that highlight successful collaborations. Hopefully, this will give you a clearer idea of what’s possible when influencer marketing is done well!

Subaru – #MeetAnOwner

In 2016, Subaru collaborated with 20 influencers across various industries, including fitness and art. Each influencer was tasked with creating a unique piece of content in which a Subaru car and its owner featured. The campaign included, amongst others, Zack King. He made a video where he tried to impress a date with a Subaru. This video alone won over eight million views. Overall, the campaign achieved a solid engagement rate of 9% and generated thousands of social media comments and millions of likes.

Sun Peaks Resort

This ski resort in British Columbia wanted to advertise its top winter attractions. For example, their seasonal festivals, local natural beauty, and crowd-free ski run. For this purpose, they worked with photographer and Instagram influencer Callum Snape, one of many adventure seekers in the pacific northwest. Snape positioned the resort as an insider secret, and the content won over 200,000 article views.

Casper

Online mattress company Casper invited several canine-loving influencers to Manhattan's exclusive dog-lovers launch party. The event was highly streamed and photo-worthy with a green carpet, “puparazzi,” and hot-dog-infused water. Online outlet Dodo also streamed the party on Facebook. Private events are a great and affordable way to engage several influencers simultaneously. Parties make your Influencers feel appreciated and VIP. But they also give them something to post about, benefiting both you and their audience.

Are You Ready to Utilize Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing is a fantastic marketing opportunity for all-sized businesses. Whether you’re looking to engage with a single micro-influencer or work with several larger influencers simultaneously, there are many perks to dabbling in this marketing technique.

For now, consumer trends stress the importance of authenticity and personality. As such, we predict that influencer marketing will only get bigger from here. So now’s the time to get started! Don’t forget to tell us all about your experiences with influencer marketing in the comments box below – speak soon!

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